Quintessentially New Zealand, this home is one of a handful of wooden bungalows dotted along the hillside that stretches down to the harbor below. Near to Christchurch in the south of the country, Lyttelton is a port town that was also the epicenter of a major earthquake in 2011.
The area took a lot of damage with all the quakes and after tremors, and the old villa in this spot was no exception; this family needed to rebuild their home. Realizing that their wish was not to move on and restart afresh, but to pick up and continue, they decided to build the new house with the memories and silhouette of their former home. The decision was taken to mark continuity and growth; to see the new building as part of a lineage rather than a completely blank canvas.
The architects behind the project were Irving Smith Architects, who presented at the Prague International Architecture Festival last year in an exhibition called Soft Context: Soft Architecture. It was fascinating and interesting to them to work with the idea of using a house’s history to shape it for that moment in time, with a nod to what might come in the future too. They got to know the home owners to help work out the best direction for building the new house:
The owners are very much like Lyttelton, creative, modest, community focused, lovely. The house is an extension of not just their own personalities, but those of Lyttelton following the Christchurch earthquakes.
The house is not easily seen from afar, sat tucked into the hill’s edge. Nonetheless, it is part of a cluster of houses and forms part of a community with the neighbors and buildings nearby.
One of the challenges to this building project was finding the materials, and even labor to do the job, as there were many rebuilding and restructuring programs going on following the quake.
The house sits perched on a slope but works on a single level, with different rooms moving together. To protect against future damage the home has been given much more in terms of foundations to keep the house from sliding down the hill.
From the designers
“In many ways the new plan takes a cue from the way that the old villa had been altered over the years as rooms were combined in the search for light, the view and a way outside. Separate spaces below for friends, family and storage are then removed out of the way so that the house externally and internally suits the scale of house that they wanted to live in and as felt appropriate within the community.”
Now with the home replenished with the furniture, art and creativity of its predecessor, the home owners have been given the time to dust off and recollect, as well as focus on their next step in moving forward. Elements of the home are particularly designed for these residents; the double doorway for hanging wetsuits after a swim, the beams for the cat to survey the scene, the wall of books that make up one of the walls. These portions make the place feel welcoming and friendly.
The high open beams in the home also help to give some spaciousness and light, and the windows open out with many views in all directions. The owners were interested in a 70s aesthetic, which is reflected in the wood and furniture choices. Artwork hangs on the wall to reflect personal favorites and their connection with the community, such as that of local artist Bill Hammond.
There is a portion at the back of the house for gathering together and sitting outside. As the site faces steeply to the south, it can be hard to capture the sun and easy to be exposed to the wind and rain! So the deck provides an outside space that opens through from the kitchen, to make use of this garden area. There is also a section from the living area that faces out toward the harbor.
From the designers
“Options in a small house, well any house, are important. When one side is windy the other is calm, equally shady versus sunny, high and low, in the view and away from it, open to the community and removed. It’s good having different kinds of places to be.”
The home is so welcoming! I adore the wood burning stove and the arrangement of furniture for a cozy night in.
The exposed wooden frame in the new building is part of that shared surrounding, as it opens up to the community. It suggests the possibility of future change and the additions or amendments that could come.
As a silhouette of its former villa, the house picks up and carries on into the future. And so, Lyttelton too continues to shape up and move forward.